Commentary Magazine


He’s No Victim

The attempt to reform former terrorist William Ayers continues apace — with Ayers himself leading the charge. If one listens to him, then he was a bit of a rapscallion in his youth, with his idealism overwhelming his common sense. But he’s now tempered that with maturity and wisdom and still continues to hold the same goals — just with more acceptable means.

That is, to put it mildly, a complete falsehood.

Ayers is not interested in establishing the truth. He is not about reforming himself, or even rehabilitating himself, but reconstructing what he sees as his “glory days” by erasing the most reprehensible elements and casting himself as a victim.

There are few people in this nation less deserving of such grace.

Ayers’s own words are all one needs to see why:

Now that the election is over, I want to say as plainly as I can that the character invented to serve this drama wasn’t me, not even close. Here are the facts:

I never killed or injured anyone. I did join the civil rights movement in the mid-1960s, and later resisted the draft and was arrested in nonviolent demonstrations. I became a full-time antiwar organizer for Students for aDemocratic Society.

Start off with a proclamation that everything hereafter is the truth, then start lying your pants off. It’s a classic technique.

In 1970, I co-founded the Weather Underground, an organization that was created after an accidental explosion that claimed the lives of three of our comrades in Greenwich Village.

No, the Weather Underground was formed in 1969. The Greenwich Village explosion was in March of 1970, when several of Ayers’ comrades were killed. The explosion was, indeed, accidental — one of them screwed up while assembling a bomb. A nail bomb, to be precise — an explosive laden with nails to maximize the death and injury to those targeted by the bombers. In this case, the bomb’s intended victims were attendees at an enlisted men’s dance at Fort Dix.

The Weather Underground went on to take responsibility for placing several small bombs in empty offices — the ones at the Pentagon and the United States Capitol were the most notorious — as an illegal and unpopular war consumed the nation.

Yes, those were the most notorious ones — if one only judges them by their successful bombings. Less successful ones, such as the one cited above or the one in February 1970, when they tried — but failed — to firebomb the home of a New York State Supreme Court Justice.

The Weather Underground crossed lines of legality, of propriety and perhaps even of common sense. Our effectiveness can be — and still is being — debated. We did carry out symbolic acts of extreme vandalism directed at monuments to war and racism, and the attacks on property, never on people, were meant to respect human life and convey outrage and determination to end the Vietnam war.

“Symbolic acts of extreme vandalism directed at monuments to war and racism?” What a delightfully vague non-denial. And “the attacks on property, never on people, were meant to respect human life and convey outrage and determination to end the Vietnam War” is a brilliantly-crafted phrase. Read one way, it’s a denial that any attacks were aimed at people. Read another, it’s a distancing of the attacks on people from those against property — and the former are never, ever discussed.

Peaceful protests had failed to stop the war. So we issued a screaming response. But it was not terrorism; we were not engaged in a campaign to kill and injure people indiscriminately, spreading fear and suffering for political ends.

Again, the careful parsing of Ayers’ words is important here. They didn’t intend to kill and injure people indiscriminately; no, they were specifically choosing their targets — soldiers who were cogs in the Pentagon Death Machine and a judge who was persecuting the noble, oppressed Black Panthers.

I cannot imagine engaging in actions of that kind today. And for the past 40 years, I’ve been teaching and writing about the unique value and potential of every human life, and the need to realize that potential through education.

Of course he can’t. Because he didn’t do them then. Instead, Ayers was interested in keeping his hands clean, of getting others to do the dirty  work.He was a coward.

There’s more rationalizing of his past misdeeds, but they all boil down to “things were so horrible, we had to do horrible things, too.” Then we get to the crux of Ayers’ resurgence in the public eye: his relationship with Barack Obama.

The thing to remember is that the details of that relationship were constantly redefined and revised to reconcile the official story with emerging facts. At first, to Obama Ayers was “just some guy in my neighborhood.” Their kids went to school together! (Never mind that Ayers’ children are considerably older than Obama’s.)  Then, when it turned out that both men had served on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, the story changed to “they occasionally attended meetings together.” Then, when it came out that Ayers had set up the board that Obama chaired, it became “old news.” Then another common membership on another board — the Joyce Foundation, most famous for its efforts to destroy the 2nd Amendment — came up, but that was dismissed, too.

The facts are simple: Ayers — by his own admission; he described himself after his trial as “guilty as hell; free as a bird” — should have been sent to prison. Instead, he is not only free, but an honored professor who specializes in teaching future teachers — working to make certain his toxic ideology and principles are passed on to more and more young people.William Ayers is not a victim. He is not a misunderstood hero. He is not someone who, despite his protestations to the contrary, deeply regrets the folly of his youth. He is not someone who is repentant of his past misdeeds. He is a would-be Timothy McVeigh, but with more degrees and less technical competence.

Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!

Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
for full access to
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
Don't have a log in?
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.